SENATORS have told the Australian Livestock and Property Agents Association (ALPA) it has just three months to lead the development of industry Standards of Practice that cover all commercial livestock transactions.
Senators say if no such action is taken, they will recommend the Government enforce the imposition of a mandatory Standards of Practice the Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport committee itself is developing.
It seems a clash is brewing, because ALPA says the proposed changes ignore existing industry standards already in place and it has no jurisdiction to, or interest in, taking on the role the Senate committee has recommended.
ALPA chief executive Andy Madigan said saleyards around the country already operate under national livestock Terms and Conditions. He said ALPA also has private sale contracts for paddock sales, and its members also operate according to a code of conduct already embedded in its own constitution.
“So all of those the Senators are suggesting we do what we already have, and we have supplied it to them on numerous occasions,” Mr Madigan told Beef Central this morning.
Mr Madigan said that as a membership body and not a regulatory body, ALPA had no interest in trying to organise anything that happens without an agent. “We have no interest in doing that, it is not our role as a membership organisation.”
Mr Madigan said ALPA’s biggest concern was that the Senators continued to talk about collusion. “Over the two and a bit years they have been doing this, where are the convictions, where are the fines, and where is the proof?,” he said.
“There has been a lot of suggestion which has been damaging but they still haven’t come up with any proof of it happening.
“Now if they come up with some proof and tell us where it is and how it is happening, we will fix it.
“If we see a problem within our part of the industry that we have control over we would naturally try and fix it or work with whoever we need to fix it.”
Senator Barry O’Sullivan told Beef Central today that the existing systems to which ALPA referred were “very inadequate”.
“It is not working, we still get continued stream of intelligence about the potential collusion and practices around saleyards,” he said.
“You only need to read the guidelines they have got, they are very inadequate, they are not prescriptive, I have had personal experience of these problems.”
In response to challenges that no evidence of anti-competitive behaviour had been demonstrated, Senator O’Sullivan pointed to the Barnawatha sale in early 2015 that triggered the latest senate inquiry.
“What more do you want than Barnawatha? Nine commercial buyers didn’t turn up on the one day.
“When the ACCC conducted their investigation, these people one at a time, said I had a flat tyre, the next one said the wipers on my car weren’t working, they never made a sensible attempt to defend the collusive behaviour of those nine buyers.
“You can’t have nine buyers boycott a saleyard without organised collusion. It interferes in the good order of the market place.
“And put yourself in the position of those producers. I think it was a 3500 head yarding. Think about all of the expenses they incurred, it would be hundreds of thousands of dollars they have to absorb because of what was I would argue was collusive behaviour on the part of buyers.”
Senator O’Sullivan said he also did not accept the view that it was not ALPA’s role to lead the industry in developing Standards of Practice for saleyards.
“Have they not heard of self-regulation? Everybody single body in the country tells me they prefer to self-regulate themselves than to have an authority in State or Federal government agency regulate them.
“So that is completely inconsistent with the ideals of every organisation I have ever spoken to.
“I invite (ALPA) to write to me to say we can’t or we won’t, that will give me all the ammunition I need to put a compulsory code of conduct into place, because if they won’t, we will.”